Kate Payne-Brown

Winemaker, Stoller Family Estate

Is there any sweeter sound than the pop of a cork? Kate Payne-Brown would argue no. As winemaker at the award-winning Stoller Family Estate in Oregon’s Dundee Hills—the first winery in the world to receive a LEED Gold certification for sustainability—sparkling and reserve wines are Kate’s forté. As a successful female winemaker in a male-dominated industry and a mom to two young boys. Kate’s also a passionate advocate for creating a welcoming space in the wine world that allows women to balance career and family.

Raised by New Yorkers in Salt Lake City, she originally studied to be… an optometrist. While on a motorbike trip with her then-boyfriend, now-husband, a fellow biker told her about a grape consultant he met on the road. This conversation opened her eyes to the possibility of using her science background in the wine industry. She went on to earn a Master’s in oenology amongst the wine greats of South Australia before returning to Oregon, in between frequent trips to Burgundy. Kate and her husband, who’s also in the industry, have their own small labels and hope to leave a legacy for their sons—and just maybe, keep the grapes in the family. Clearly, Kate’s passion for wine runs as deep as the rooted vines of beautiful Burgundy.

Why We Love Kate Payne-Brown

Kate greets a bottle of Stoller 2014 Chardonnay like an old friend. She considers herself a wine storyteller whose job is to bring the story of the vineyard from the vine to your lips.

“Wine is for every emotion, every celebration. It is integral. It becomes a part of who you are. I like to tell the story of the vineyard and the vintage without a lot of noise.”

“I'm a connector of people and ideas. Let's bring everybody together in order to create something. I think about that a lot in my job and in our community and in the vineyard.”

6 Questions with Kate Payne-Brown

  1. So Kate, what's your superpower?

    I tend to connect ideas and people. It's definitely one of the things I'm known for. It's like, 'Oh, you, you should meet this person because they're going to help you along with your journey...'

    I'm a Gemini. So I'm often thinking about a million things at once and I'm kind of a collector of ideas. And I feel like having a broad network allows me to bring people together and connect them in ways that maybe I didn't realize. Maybe I didn't realize that was my superpower in the past, but I would say that that's certainly my superpower now.

  2. As a winemaker, is it Burgundy red or white for you?

    Definitely both, at the same time! I love both and a little tasting of both is usually the right answer. Maybe followed by a beer.

  3. Wait, you like to drink beer in Burgundy?!

    Burgundy is like seeing old friends. There's an excitement and loveliness that comes with going to Burgundy every year. But not to state the obvious, after doing a lot of tastings, sometimes 12 hours a day of tastings... really all I want to do is drink a beer.

  4. What's it like being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated craft like winemaking?

    Coming back to Oregon in the mid 2000s, I was so fortunate to be surrounded by all these women winemakers and vineyard managers. And then here at Stoller, there are so many women in decision-making roles. So in an industry that is so male dominated, I felt embraced and empowered and lifted up by all the women around me. I don't think I would be standing here today without all that support. And I think about that going forward, about how to lift other women up in this industry. It's deeply important to me.

  5. What's one misconception about your job?

    Winemaking is not always glamorous or romantic by any stretch of the imagination. Expect to clean a lot of tanks and to get dirty! If you can handle that, then it is incredibly rewarding. There's something glorious about working with a team to create something from these beautiful grapes that we've grown and tended to all year. The grapes comes in, and you're creating something that's almost a time capsule for that vintage in that place, at that time. It's really magical.

  6. What's one thing your looking forward to in Burgundy?

    Oh, there are so many places Burgundy! Old medieval towns with cobblestone streets and patisseries and cafes. One of my favorite experiences is going to the farmers markets. There are larger ones on Saturdays, and a small one on Wednesdays. I know this because I parked my car there. And I did not move it the night before. And in true French fashion, the next day they simply put the farmers market on my car. All the stalls were set up right around my little Renault, and I could not get it out. The lesson? Always move your car on Tuesday evenings before market day.

Burgundy with Stoller Family Estate

One Departure Only | June 11 - 17, 2022

Learn More

Explore Upcoming Trips with our Tastemakers

Peru with Traci Des Jardins & Enrique Sanchez

The best of Peru with Traci Des Jardins & Enrique Sanchez. Ancient Incan culture, Michelin-star cuisine and colorful food markets, hikes through Sacred Valley villages up into the sheer audaciousness of Machu Picchu. This is the Peru of your dreams.

Provence with Junior Borges

From buzzing cities to bucolic countryside, this is an immersive expedition into the heart of Provence, one of France's most storied food and wine regions. Join us for a true feast for the senses alongside Junior Borges.

Oaxaca with Diego Galicia & Rico Torres

Explore food, art and culture with chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres. Oaxaca packs in so much of the complex, fascinating culture of Mexico and we'll experience it all—at artist studios, ancient ruins, local markets, street-food stands and hacienda hotels.